As predicted [WAMN: 05-Jun-05], privately-owned Russian daily newspaper Izvestiya has been acquired by Gazprom Media, a unit of the state-controlled energy conglomerate.

Many observers within and outside Russia see the takeover as an unwelcome, even sinister, extension of the Kremlin's grip on the nation's media.

Gazprom owns controlling stakes in three Russian TV companies - NTV, NTV plus and TNT - as well as several radio stations and the Seven Days publishing house.

However, the move was greeted with relief by the paper's journalists and editorial staff, none of whom had been paid for two months. For the time being at least, the name Putin is spoken with greater affection than hitherto.

The pay delay was triggered by financial difficulties at former proprietor, ZAO Prof-Media, but the salaries were released immediately after finalization of the deal.

Izvestiya, which according to TNS has a daily readership pf 375,100, was founded during the 1917 revolution as the voice of the new Soviet government and over seven decades the title became synonymous with the partyline of the day.

It was privatized after the collapse of Russia's communist system in 1991 and is currently considered one of the nation's most independent and professional dailies.

A Gazprom spokesman said no immediate changes are planned.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff